Hebrews 12:22-24

Hebrews 12:22‑24  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
We have been shown what does not stamp the Christian confession but the Jewish. Here we are told in a few expressive clauses what is our portion, though in hope.
“But ye have come to mount Zion; and to a living God's city, heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriads of angels, a universal assemblage; and to an assembly of firstborn ones enrolled in heaven; and to God judge of all; and to spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus mediator of a new covenant; and to blood of sprinkling better than Abel's” (Heb. 12:22-2422But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22‑24)).
This bright statement was pre-eminently suited and intended to disabuse and raise the hearts of the unbelieving Hebrews, as it is admirable for the instruction of any and all saints who desire to learn. The conjunction simply and effectively introduces and connects each of the objects in a remarkable order after the first, as we shall see. This was overlooked in the Authorized Version following other translators to the ruin of the meaning between the latter clause of Heb. 12:2222But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (Hebrews 12:22) and beginning of Heb. 12:2323To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23).
No mountain in the O.T., stood in such formal contrast with Sinai as Zion. The one was, as just noticed, the never to be forgotten scene of national responsibility to the law; the other the intervention of Jehovah in grace for His king when all was ruin, people and priests alike wicked, the ark taken by the Philistines, Ichabod confessed, Israel's king and his sons slain, and the Jebusite not only in the center and stronghold of Jerusalem but defiant and insulting. Then it was that Jehovah, as He chose David, so also chose the mount Zion which He loved. And there will He set His King “upon His holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” These psalms and others speak of a future day, of a new age when Messiah shall reign over Israel and the nations. But our epistle simply introduces mount Zion compared with Sinai and its legal associations, as the signal expression of divine grace interposing to establish the kingdom after a scene of grievous sin and long humiliation. “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” “There Jehovah commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
To mark this aim, we may notice how the Holy Spirit connects with Zion, not as a Jew might have expected, the well-known city of David, earthly Jerusalem, but “a living God's city, heavenly Jerusalem.” If Zion was morally the highest to be descried here below, we now leave earth behind and above behold the city for which Abraham looked, as God prepared it for such as were pilgrims and strangers on earth, a city which hath the foundations, whose maker and builder is God. It is the seat of glory in the heavenly places for the holy sufferers with Christ who shall also be glorified together; and He Who is a living God is bound in love and honor to give it thus effect.
Then follows the mention of “myriads of angels, a general assemblage.” They were the natural, the indigenous, denizens of heaven, all God's hosts that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Here they are presented in their fullness of various order. Another inspired writer tells us that he heard their voice, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.
Further, the Christian Hebrews are said to have come “to [the] assembly of firstborn enrolled in heaven.” There need be no hesitation in identifying this heavenly company. It is the church of God, of which we hear so much and of the deepest interest in the Acts of the Apostles and the other Epistles, as the Lord when here below spoke of it as about to be founded (Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)), so that Hades' gates should not prevail against it. The day of Pentecost (that followed His death, resurrection, and ascension) first saw the new sight. It is described here according to the divine design of the Epistle. This accounts for putting forward the aggregate of those who compose it, firstborn ones, rather than the elsewhere familiar figures of the body of Christ, and of the temple of God—His habitation by the Spirit. And those who compose it are here characterized: (1) in relation to Him Who was carefully shown us in Hebrews 1 to be the Firstborn, the established Heir of all things; (2) in relation by grace to our proper and destined sphere of glory, heaven, and not earth, where Israel as such rightly look for their blessedness and triumph under Messiah's reign. Those who are holy, brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, being children, are heirs also, heirs of God and Christ's joint-heirs. He is Firstborn, alone in personal right and result of His work, but they are also firstborn truly though of divine grace. And further, they are unregistered or enrolled in heaven by divine counsel and the same grace, citizens of heaven which justly pales and lifts above every other citizenship.
Thence we of course descend, “and to spirits of just made perfect.” These are the O. T. saints. They had had to do with God before grace reigned through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, as we know it in the gospel, when faith rested on promise and looked for the Coming One; and they will have blessed part in His kingdom (Rev. 20), when they too shall judge the world (1 Cor. 6:22Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? (1 Corinthians 6:2)). The like distinction from “we” may be seen at the end in the Heb. 11:39-4039And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39‑40) and it is remarkable, as this instance proves that they are shown, not as they will be, but as they are, “to the spirits of just made perfect.” They will not be in the separate state when “that day” is come; and the same thing applies to what follows.
Next we read “and to Jesus, mediator of a new covenant.” This is the pledge of the enduring mercy which awaits the two houses of Israel. Of this all the ancient revelation speaks fully, the law, the psalms, and the prophets; so that there is the less need of now dwelling on it particularly, even if the Gospels and the Acts, and the Epistles and the Revelation did not also confirm it. It is only necessary to say here that “new” means “fresh” or “recent,” a quite different word and thought from the usual “new covenant,” which means covenant on a new principle, not letter but spirit, not man's responsibility as at Sinai, but God's grace in Christ. Here the added comfort is given that when in days to come Jehovah makes the new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, when He will put His law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts, and be their God and they His people, with other blessed and abiding consequences, it will also be as “fresh” as when the blood was shed by which the True mediator founded it in His death before God. The Christian Hebrews had come to Jesus its Mediator, not yet to its actual connection and establishment with Israel, but to Him Who has done all for this purpose in due time.
But the prospect makes the way for another consequent blessing: “And to blood of sprinkling speaking better than Abel's.” If a new covenant points to Israel put under new and sure and everlasting covenant mercy in virtue of Jehovah-Messiah, the voice of the blood of sprinkling does not cry for vengeance and curse, as Abel's did (Gen. 4:10-1210And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; 12When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. (Genesis 4:10‑12)); it speaks of reconciliation for the earth (and indeed all things) assured by that blood which is alone precious and efficacious with God. It is clear however that this, however truly a guarantee, is like others we have seen, not yet in actual accomplishment; if we have come to them in hope, yea in full assurance of hope, we do not yet see them, and so with patience wait for them all, surely to be manifest in the day we see approaching.